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Following completion of Lonzo Ball trade, Pelicans to battle Bulls in summer league opener

Enough free agency drama, let’s basketball!

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New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Although free agency is still on-going across the NBA — and the Lonzo Ball trade to Chicago faces potential tampering violations despite becoming official late last night, some of the New Orleans Pelicans are going to be in action on a basketball court.

The Las Vegas summer league slate of games kicked off Sunday, with the Pelicans first contest scheduled for later today when they’ll battle the Chicago Bulls in a 2:00 p.m. Central start. The game can be seen on ESPN2.

The Pelicans are expected to have three players from last season’s roster in Kira Lewis Jr., Naji Marshall and Didi Louzada, and their two 2021 draft picks in Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones. The rest of the summer league roster will comprise of Jose Alvarado, Moses Wright, Daulton Hommes, Malcolm Hill, David DiLeo, and Anžejs Pasečņiks.

Outside of the first five names mentioned, be sure to keep your eyes on Alvarado (6’0 height, 6’1 wingspan), a point guard who recently signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans, and the undrafted center Moses Wright (6’9 height, 7’1 wingspan). They were teammates on a Georgia Tech squad that made it to the ACC Championship game, beating Florida St. 80-75.

Alvarado, voted the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 15.2 points, 4.1 assists and an eye-popping 2.8 steals last season. His shooting will need to show proficiency and range on the NBA level, but his defensive abilities at Georgia Tech were must-watch tv, per Sam Vecenie’s 2021 Draft Guide.

Motor absolutely never quits. All sorts of toughness. Has an aggressive mindset and instills that throughout a game. You see that most on the defensive end. There were so few players in college hoops over the last two years who were as successful at the point of attack defensively as Alvarado. Great hands and extremely disruptive. Unreal hand-eye coordination. Gets through any sort of screen assignment with ease. Stays attached to his man off the ball. Beats guys to spots due to his quickness.

Not to be outdone, Wright, the latest recipient of the ACC Player of the Year, is also considered to be a really good defender but may have the greater upside. In addition to averages of 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks, he boasted a line of 17.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Per Vecenie again:

Showcases best as a defender right now, particularly in help. Forces a ton of turnovers and action plays. Good weak side rim protector because of his pop off two feet. Times those shots well. Great hands to where he gets deflections and steals. Major stocks guy, and analytics executives are big fans of his overall activity levels. Moves really well laterally but has some issues in terms of being switchable. Great recovery speed. Strong enough to deal with post players and doesn’t get displaced easily, which means that he can still retain leaping power even when getting contacted.

Due to Wright’s athleticism, Vecenie calls him a highlight reel player and believes he’s worthy of at least a two-way contract. Could Wright be playing for the Pelicans second two-way contract?

The Bulls will be led by Patrick Williams, the fourth overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft, and Ayo Dosunmu, their lone pick from last month’s draft.

Here’s to seeing a lot of positives in today’s contest, both from last year’s rookies to the latest crop of fresh faces — as well as Willie Green pace the sidelines for the first time as head coach.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (0-0) at Chicago Bulls (0-0)

When: August 9, 2:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: ESPN2

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.